Gustav Stresemann came from a lower-middle class background in Prussia. During the 1890s he studied economics at Berlin before taking a doctorate at Leipzig. He became a businessman and established close connections with light industry. His political career began in 1903 when he became a member of the National Liberal Party and he was elected to the Reichstag four years later; at 29, he was then the Reichstag’s youngest deputy. During the First World War he rose to prominence within both the party and the Reichstag. He succeeded Ernst Bassermann as leader of the National Liberals and established his reputation as a staunch monarchist. In 1917 he helped bring about the collapse of the last pre-war civilian Chancellor of the Kaiserreich, welcoming the new military dictatorship of Ludendorff and Hindenburg. At this stage, he was also an ardent annexationist, committed to achieving a victorious peace with extensive additions of territory both in Europe and to Germany’s overseas empire.